Corinthian Household Churches
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Ancient Corinth Churches 101

Cenchreae House

Ancient CorinthSaint Paul commends Phoebe, "a deacon" and "benefactor" or patron of the church at Cenchreae. From this "we may infer that Phoebe is an independent woman who has some wealth and is also one of the leaders of the Corinthian house churches in the harbor town of Cenchreae." Romans 16.1-2 reads, "I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon [a "servant" or "Christian designated to serve with the overseers/elders"] of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me."

Cenchreae Churches

Since Cenchreae was only seven miles from Corinth, the Cenchreae churches were probably considered part of Corinth. All this illustrates that "the church of God that is in Corinth" described in 1 Corinthians 1.2 "To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ — their Lord and ours." The "whole church" mentioned in Romans 16.23. These consisted of several local Corinthian household churches, each one somewhat different in its ethnic, social and economic mix of people. Saint Paul's reference in the same passage to "the church of God in Corinth" and to the believers coming together "as a church," in 1 Corinthians 11.18 which reads "In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it." There is also the implication in Romans 16.23 where Saint Paul writes, "Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings." Gaius was probably hosting the entire group of Corinthian household churches, which suggests that there were occasions in Corinth when all the believers assembled together.✞

Church Fragmentation

This thesis helps to explain some of the fragmentation in the Corinthian household churches with respect to church leadership, worship, morality and social status. Certain sections of Saint Paul's correspondence to the Corinthian household churches probably were sent to specific churches that were encountering particular problems. In time, these letters were shared with other churches in the city and read at their worship services before they were collected and edited into their current format as the Biblical books of 1 and 2 Corinthians.

"Corinthian Household Churches"
by Ron Meacock © 2017

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